Forest Industries Ireland (FII) has advised farmers that planting Sitka spruce remains an attractive option for generating financial returns from their land.

The ibec forestry group’s endorsement of conifers comes on the back of a study it commissioned which found that private landowners, foresters and farmers will see over €2bn generated in timber sales over the next 12 years and with most of this timber being Sitka spruce softwood.

FII hailed the result as representing a “major financial windfall for Ireland’s farmers” and put the revenue-generating potential of Irish forests mainly down to the country’s suitability to grow Sitka spruce.

The group insists that planting spruce in 2024 will help farms tap into an “almost insatiable demand” for softwood timber used in homes, pallets, fencing and packaging.

“Farmers and others who invested in planting Sitka spruce over the last 30 years have built up a huge financial asset that will yield over €2bn in cashflow to growers over the next 12 years,” FII’s director Mark McAuley said.

'Perfect conditions'

“Ireland has the perfect conditions to grow conifers for the production of softwood - Sitka grows here at three times the speed of Scandinavia.

“Today’s farmers would be well advised to maximise the financial return from the land holding by planting conifers and generating a valuable cash crop.”

The director doubled down on FII’s claims of conifer forestry being a high returns option for farmers by stating that spruce plantations represent “one of the only financially attractive options for Irish agriculture to diversify land use and meet climate change targets”.

“Between the Government grants that are available and a strong future market for timber, the planting of a cash crop of conifers is a good financial and environmental option for farmers and investors,” McAuley commented.

He added that utilising more homegrown timber in the construction sector poses further opportunities for increasing the value of softwood timber while reducing emissions in this sector.

“We need to update the building regulations and build more apartments as well as houses using timber frame,” the FII director maintained.